theSkimm's Guide to

EQUAL PAY

THE STORY

You keep hearing the phrase ‘gender pay gap.’ Mind it, because the gap is having a big year. Welcome to the debate over equal pay.

HISTORY LESSON PLEASE.

The fight for women to have the same size paychecks as men picked up steam during WWI and WWII. Because while the dudes were at war, women took factory jobs that were usually reserved for the XY chromosome crowd. Think: "A League of Their Own", but without the baseball uniforms. This was one of the first times the country saw a large group of women doing the same jobs as men...and getting paid less for it.

IS THAT LEGAL?

Not anymore, technically. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay men and women different salaries for similar work. It seemed like one giant leap for womankind, but there were a lot of loopholes that made it difficult to enforce. Then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on race, national origin, religion, or…yup…gender. Also not really enforced.

GIVE ME THE OPINIONS.

There are ‘we heart equal pay’ supporters, who say the fight is a key part of the equal rights movement. There are ‘equal schmequal’ opponents, who say women aren’t paid unfairly, they just tend to work in jobs that pay less. And there are people in between, who say women deserve equal pay, but they should focus on working for a raise and not asking Uncle Sam for legislation.

WHY HAVE I BEEN HEARING A LOT ABOUT THIS?

Because the equal pay debate has played out in a very public way in recent years. There was the time Sony got hacked, and came under fire for shortchanging its leading ladies. Cue celebs like J-Law saying, ‘I’m sorry, you must have written the wrong number on my paycheck.’ Then there was the time the US women’s national soccer team sued the US Soccer Federation because they’re paid as little as 40% of what the men’s team gets paid. Even though they bent it like Beckham all the way to the World Cup championship. Meanwhile, the men’s national team has never bent it anywhere.

ISN’T THERE A DAY DEDICATED TO ALL THIS?

Yes. Back in the 90s, the National Committee on Pay Equity (yes, it exists) decided to stop talking about the gender pay gap, and actually show people how bad it is. Enter: Equal Pay Day. It marks how far into 2016 women have to work (on average) to earn what men earned in 2015. Right now, women make about 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. And the gap is even worse for minorities. This year, Equal Pay Day is April 12th.

theSKIMM

The most recent attempt to close the gap -- legislation called the Paycheck Fairness Act -- fell a few votes short of passing in the Senate in 2014. Translation: the debate over equal pay is far from over, so expect to hear a lot more about why Jack gets paid more than Diane.